Local History

September 4th 2015
Our latest staff profile is of Kevin, who you will recognize if you've ever been to the second floor of the Central Library. “I'm Kevin. First and foremost, I work at the reference desk answering questions for library users, trouble shooting computers, helping people find books, and suggesting books to people who aren't sure what they want. I speak Spanish, so I often help Spanish-speaking patrons. I also select books for the Library in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Chinese. I find it... Read Post
June 4th 2014
Postcard from 1930

Somerville Public Library’s central branch is marking its centennial this year. Way back in January of 1914, the Italian Renaissance-style building at 79 Highland Avenue opened for patrons after its dedication on Dec. 17, 1913. Famed library architect Edward Lippincott Tilton designed the new building. According to the Somerville Journal in an article dated Dec. 12, 1913, the library was constructed at a cost of $125,000 (which is $2,993,333 in today’s dollars).... Read Post
March 11th 2014

Visitors to the Central Library often comment on the frieze in the main reading room that runs along the perimeter of the room just below the ceiling.

It's a partial reproduction of the friezes on the Parthenon, one of the finest surviving buildings of Classical Greece and a symbol of Western civilization. Ever since this building opened a century ago, library staff have been telling anyone who asks that the frieze depicts the Panathenaic Procession, which concluded the annual... Read Post

August 12th 2013
It's official: Whitey Bulger has been found guilty - of a whole lot of stuff - and will presumably be spending the rest of his life behind bars.  Many of us would like to forget all about the notorious thug but, human nature being what it is, a fair number of us want to know all there is to know about Whitey and his doings.  To that end, here's a list of relevant books available through the Minuteman Library Network. Whitey: the Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss by Dick Lehr and... Read Post
July 15th 2013
This month we're happy to have Somerville High School juniors and seniors at the library doing research on the history of Assembly Square. They're employees of a collaboration between Federal Realty, Artists for Humanity, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and the City of Somerville. "Based on what we find out, we're going to make suggestions for a sculpture, " said SHS senior Larry Barnes. The sculpture will in some way embody the history of Assembly Square and will placed in... Read Post
May 31st 2012
Last night yours truly and Kristi Chase of the City's Historic Preservation department gave a presentation on genealogical and house history research. Since most people remember research processes when they're given concrete examples, we took one house in Somerville and explained how to use library resources and local government document to find out how the house had been altered over the course of its existence and to find out who lived there since it was built. So technically, the... Read Post
April 20th 2012

As usual, there's a lot going on at the Library and all over the City this weekend!

* Saturday at the Central Library from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., we invite you to join us for the Somerville Reads Potluck Celebration featuring great food, prizes, and music by the Michael J. Epstein Library. This is part of the Mayor's Urban Agriculture Initiative - you can read about related events happening around the City here.

* Sunday at the Walnut Street Community Garden at 1:00 p.m... Read Post

April 19th 2012
Join us at the Central Library this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. as Paul and Rachel Revere ride again!

Set in 1805, the dramatization animates the "Spirit of the Day," as Paul and Rachel recount the exciting tale of life in Boston's North End when America was still a British Crown Colony. Paul Revere married Rachel Walker in 1773, following the death of his first wife, Sarah, who died after the birth of their sixth child. Rachel took on the care of the children, and with Paul had six more... Read Post
March 26th 2012
The Director’s “Meet, Mingle, Read” series continues at the Central Library this Wednesday (March 28th) at 7:00 p.m. Join us in welcoming authors Ron Driscoll and John Powers who will discuss their new book, Fenway Park: A Salute to the Coolest, Cruelest, Longest-Running Baseball Stadium in America (Running Press). Since it opened in 1912, Fenway Park has become an iconic destination for baseball fans everywhere and a source of great civic pride for generations of New Englanders. Home to the... Read Post
October 12th 2011
Fall might just be the best time of year for exploring the outdoors in New England. I love walking in beautiful natural places like Mt. Auburn Cemetery and Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary. I used to be a regular visitor to the Arnold Arboretum too, but haven't wanted to go back there since the demise of Corky, the Arboretum's much-loved cork tree. Running a hand over Corky's smooth bark and sitting on that inviting low branch that parallelled the ground was always the highlight of an Arboretum... Read Post
August 19th 2011
An SPL blog reader recently suggested to me that I write about "crazy books in the collection."  With over 200,000 volumes SPL definitely has its share of those (among my favorites are a slim little volume on the guys who figured out how to embalm Lenin and a book about the first scientific studies of the duck-billed platypus*) However, one of the best places to seek out unusual reading material is the Local History Room at the Central Library. It's used primarily by genealogists, historic... Read Post
March 30th 2011
The laboratory in which Alexander Graham Bell (left) conducted the experiments that led to the invention of the telephone was on the top floor of a Boston office building belonging to Somerville resident Charles Williams. And on April 4, 1877, the first outdoor telephone line was set up, connecting Williams' office to his  home on the corner of Arlington and Lincoln Streets.   Soon Roswell Downer of Somerville, James Emery of Charlestown, and James R. Osgood of Boston followed Williams' example... Read Post

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